Titi Luzipo: 'Music Is In My Genes'

Titi Luzipo: 'Music Is In My Genes'

South African musician Titi Luzipo talks about her family’s jazz connect, performing in Mumbai and more

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Sunday, April 28, 2024, 09:19 AM IST
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Photos courtesy: Banyan Tree

South African native Titi Luzipo recently at the 4th Edition of Banyan Tree’s World Jazz Festival. Along with the Thapelo Khumisi Trio, Luzipo performed a set based on South African Jazz Legacy pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim and American pianist Horace Silver. 

Shimmering with the euphoria of South Africa, Luzipo’s soaring vocals, stage presence and the songs she sang were loved by all who heard her that day. She credits all this to her parents, especially her mother, who fostered a musically rich childhood home for her. 

“Music is in my genes,” she shares in an exclusive interview post per performance. “My grandfather and great forefathers were songwriters and were prominent composers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. This then weighed over to my mother and her children. My mother sang in the jazz band founded in the 80s called The Soul Jazzmen. She is the only surviving member of the band to date. Then I have my brother who is an impeccable singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has written a lot of songs for me. It’s an inexplicable blessing to be part of such an important lineage of music through my family.” 

Luzipo, who also teaches contemporary commercial music at North West University in Johannesburg, says she wanted to perform and sing for as long as she can remember. “I started singing at the age of 5. My mother would take me to her rehearsals where I would mimic everything she did. It was then that my parents realized my deep calling for music. My highlights include performing with the New York Voices in Germany in 2018, performing for former state president of SA, Pres. Thabo Mbeki in Guinea, Conarkry (West Africa) in 2023 at the annual Africa Day lecture. I have been on several international stages, but the World Jazz Festival in India has been my highlight for the year,” she adds.

In 2010, Luzipo moved to Cape Town where she studied for a BMus in Jazz Performance at the University of Cape Town; and a course in Performing Arts at the University of the Western Cape to further her understanding and love of music. 

By the age of 26, she had shared the stage and worked closely with local and international musicians like Feya Faku, Gloria Bosman, Judith Sephuma, Tsepo Tsola and many others. 

Today, Luzipo is a renowned name in the jazz and Afro soul circles of South Africa, where she commands immense respect, especially after she introduced and refined a concept that was a tribute to her mother, Vuyelwa Qwesha. She explains, “#SongsMyMotherTaughtMe was a collection of my mother’s songbook and pieces that I grew up listening to which consisted a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Miriam Makeba, and many more. I wanted to tell my story of a black African child who grew up with a deep appreciation of music and through that I toured with this concept for a year, selling out 80% of my shows.” 

Later she also started the movement #BeingWomxn during the height of gender-based violence in SA. “The stride of inequality was unbearable and it was time for many of us to stand against this injustice. This concept aims to eradicate femicide and bulldoze patriarchy through song. I successfully did this show and wrote two songs on my debut album that speak to the halt of this barbaric behaviour of killing women and children,” she shares, while adding that her song Being Woman elicited a lot of attention.

While singing Summertime on stage in Mumbai, Luzipo added words like butter chicken, biryani, dal and other foods she tasted on her first visit to the country. “I was particularly fond of the homely food, but most of all, the kindness of all the people. Every night was unforgettable. It was like performing at home. It was so amazing sharing such a common love and passion. Bengaluru won my heart.” While she claims she has not heard much of Indian music or seen films, she mentions that she loves South Africa-based Indian actor Jack Devnarain. 

Luzipo, who follows her intuition, primed to build her fan base and maximize her reach, is in the process of releasing her sophomore album. “Hopefully when I get back to India, I will bring my new album with me,” she signs off.

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